Shake Rag

Shake Rag (HMJR2)

Location: Tupelo, MS 38804 Lee County
Buy Mississippi State flags at!
Country: United States of America
Buy United States of America flags at!

N 34° 15.459', W 88° 41.91'

  • 0 check ins
  • 0 favorites


Marker Front:
Shake Rag, located east of the old M & O (later GM & O) railway tracks and extending northward from Main Street, was one of several historic African American communities in Tupelo. By the 1920s blues and jazz flowed freely from performers at Shake Rag restaurants, cafes, and house parties, and later from jukeboxes, while the sounds of gospel music filled the churches. The neighborhood was leveled and its residents relocated during an urban renewal project initiate int he late 1960s.

Marker Reverse:
Tupelo's blues legacy is perhaps most widely known for its influence on a young Elvis Presley, who lived adjacent to the African American neighborhoods of "Shake Rag" and "On the Hill." A local explanation for the origin of Shake Rag's name refers to people "shakin' their rags" while fleeing a fight. The term was also used to described African American musical gatherings in 1800s and early 1900s and may be related to Shake Rag's location next to the railroad tracks; prior to regular timetables, passengers would signal for the engineer to stop a train by shaking a rag. Gambling and bootlegging were commonplace in Shake Rag and although outsiders often regarded the area as dangerous, former residents proudly recalled its churches, prosperous businesses, and strong sense of community, a quality highlighted in Charles "Wsir" Johnson's 2004 documentary about Shake Rag, "Blue Suede Shoes in the Hood." Blues guitarists such as Willie C. Jones, Charlie Reese, "Tee~Toc," and Lonnie Williams played at Shake Rag house parties, on street corners, on a stage near the fairgrounds, and at the Robins Farm south of downtown, according to musicians who have stated that Elvis may have been especially swayed by the music of "Tee~Toc" or Williams.

Touring blues, jazz, and R& B acts performed elsewhere in town at more formal venues including the Henry Hampton Elks Lodge on Tolbert Street, the Dixie Belle Theater, the lounge at Vauhn's Motel on North Spring Street, and the armory at the fairgrounds (south of this marker).In the post~World War II era George "Bally" Smith, a multi~instrumentalist whose repertoire include big band jazz and rhythm & blues, led the most celebrated local band. His band members over the years include bassist Charles "Bo" Clanton, trumpeters Turner Bynuum and Joe Baker, drummers James "Pinhead" Ashby and Steve Norwood, guitarists Willie "Shug" Ewing, Cliff Mallet, and "Guitar" Murphy, trombonist Fred Chambers, pianist Billy Ball, and saxophonists James Brown, Jerry Baker, Augustus. Ashby, Pete Norwood, and Ben Branch, who directed the band at Carver High School. Bally also led the King cole Trio~style group Three B's and a Bop, featuring Clanton, James Ashby, and vocalist Hattie Sue Helenstin. Bally's groups performed on radio stations WELO and WTUP, sometimes together with vocal group the Five Rockets, which included Sam Bell and Wayne Herbert, Sr.

Nap Hayes of Shake Rag was among the first Tupelo performers to record (in 1928 for OKeh Records). Other Tupelo area natives who have recorded blues, R& B, or gospel included Aarib and Marion Sparks, Benny Sharp, Willie Pooch, Lester and Willie Chambers of the Chambers Brothers, Riley (Richard) Riggins, Lee Williams of the Spiritual QCs, and Homemade Jamz Blues Band.
HM NumberHMJR2
Series This marker is part of the Mississippi Blues Trail series
Placed ByMississippi Blues Commission
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Sunday, October 12th, 2014 at 9:07am PDT -07:00
Sorry, but we don't have a picture of this historical marker yet. If you have a picture, please share it with us. It's simple to do. 1) Become a member. 2) Adopt this historical marker listing. 3) Upload the picture.
Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16S E 343613 N 3792029
Decimal Degrees34.25765000, -88.69850000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 34° 15.459', W 88° 41.91'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds34° 15' 27.54" N, 88° 41' 54.60" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)662
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 407-417 E Main St, Tupelo MS 38804, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

Is this marker missing? Are the coordinates wrong? Do you have additional information that you would like to share with us? If so, check in.

Check Ins  check in   |    all

Have you seen this marker? If so, check in and tell us about it.

Comments 0 comments

Maintenance Issues
  1. What historical period does the marker represent?
  2. What historical place does the marker represent?
  3. What type of marker is it?
  4. What class is the marker?
  5. What style is the marker?
  6. Does the marker have a number?
  7. What year was the marker erected?
  8. This marker needs at least one picture.
  9. Can this marker be seen from the road?
  10. Is the marker in the median?